The governor of Oregon issued pardons to nearly 50,000 individuals with low-level cannabis possession convictions. As part of this, Gov. Kate Brown is waiving more than $14 million in unpaid fines and fees for these prior offenses.
Brown’s announcement comes in the wake of President Joe Biden’s issuing mass pardons for more than 6,500 people with federal marijuana possession convictions. Biden then called on states to offer relief for cannabis offenses, which drew a diverse array of responses from governors across the country.
“We are a state, and a nation, of second chances. Today, I am taking steps to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession. For the estimated 50,000 individuals who are receiving a pardon for prior state convictions of marijuana possession, this action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions,” Brown said in a press statement.
The pardon applies to all Oregonians convicted for possessing one ounce or less of cannabis prior to when marijuana legalization took effect on July 1, 2015, and who were 21 or older at the time of the offense. For those eligible, the pardons will remove barriers that hinder their access to housing, education and employment.
Oregon legalized adult-use cannabis through a citizen-led ballot initiative in 2014 but the measure did not include provisions that would facilitate relief for those previously convicted of marijuana offenses that are now legal. In 2019, lawmakers approved another reform to Oregon’s marijuana laws to help those with cannabis convictions to seek relief through the courts but very few people have made use of it.
Meanwhile, many other states that have legalized cannabis opted to automatically review past cannabis convictions and expunge such criminal records entirely. As a consequence, around 2 million Americans have had their marijuana-related convictions erased or sealed from their criminal records in the past few years.